The Jolly Librarian
The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories
by Michael Sims
Just the book for a rainy night when the wind is blowing branches against the windows. Settle down with a cup of tea and leftover Halloween candy, and spend the evening with some Victorian ghosts. There are stories by authors you know, such as Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Henry James as well as some by authors you should get to know: Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, and Amelia Edwards.
The Victorians knew how to tell a ghost story!
Today I had lunch with my friend Mira whom I’d not seen in over a year. You probably know how these things go. You’re going to get together, and then one thing happens and then another. And then suddenly you look at the calendar, and months have gone by since you’ve seen each other.
The good news is that no matter how much time has passed, we pick up right where we left off. We laughed about the time we somehow miscalculated a tip and left the waiter about 200%. We laughed about former colleagues and boyfriends. We teared up when we talked about the people we had lost.
Although we said we’d not let so much time go by again, we probably will. That seems to be the nature of our lives these days. I’m just grateful that we still get in touch.
Still, if there is an old friend you’ve been thinking of calling, then do it. It’s nice to share memories and talk to someone who knew you when.
The Boys in the Boat
by Daniel James Brown
This book gives deep description of a young man with an amazing work ethic and will to survive and make something of himself growing up in the 1920’s. He puts himself through college and gets on the crew (rowing) team at Washington State, literally rowing till his hands bleed. He and his teammates, the “boys in the boat” go on to win the Olympics in 1936 in Germany. There is rich history here of America in the 1920’s and 30’s as well as knowledge about Hitler and his propaganda during the German Olympics of 1936. A simply great read (listen).
Last Monday was our piano midterm, which consisted of our playing a song for the class. I was nervous, so nervous that whenever I thought about it during my practice times the week before, my fingers would slip right off the keys. Let me be honest: I wasn’t just nervous; I was terrified.
During my turn on Monday, I did well enough until, when almost finished, my finger hit an E instead of a C. And after that, my teacher said, I let the timing get a little out of whack as well. So it wasn’t a magical moment when I came into my own as a musician as you might see in the movies.
But I learned several things:
- Everyone in the class was nervous and dreaded performing.
- Every single one of us made at least one mistake.
- But when it was over, we were all still alive!
- And we knew where we were improving and what we had to work on.
One of the best ways to know how much you’ve learned is to take that skill for a test drive. You need to know that you can remember the key points and not fall under the pressure. Most courses allow for this, of course, in tests and presentations. But find opportunities to practice under similar circumstances before the actual event. Give the speech to a group of friends. Take a timed sample test online. Write an essay, give it your English-major friend, and tell him/her to be absolutely ruthless.
Practice the skill in real-world situations as often as you can. It truly helps to reinforce learning.
If you search the term “Facebook envy,” you will get more than 45,000 hits. There are even articles on how to cope with the envy that accompanies reading the posts of our ‘friends’ who are on vacations, in love, at fancy restaurants, and participating in other wonderful activities while we sit on our sofas in our sweat pants and eat potato chips.
And maybe all the types of social media do play a part in the general feeling of dissatisfaction that I often encounter. The list seems endless:
- We don’t make enough money.
- We’re not appreciated.
- Other people get more time off.
And maybe all of it is true. But we can get too focused on the bad parts of our lives and lose perspective. So keep in mind the following:
- (Spoiler Alert) You haven’t come across a roaming band of cannibals as poor Bob did last night in The Walking Dead.
- You are not an Oakland Raider.
- You are not the publicist for Carnival Cruises.
- You are probably not a customer service rep for Comcast. (If you are, I feel for you. You get all the hate and none of the appreciation.
And more seriously, when you really are down about your financial situation, go to this website and see how you rank in the world.
by Michael Malone
A modern retelling of Don Quixote.
In his book, Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think, behavioral economist Paul Dolan talks about the problems of surveys. For example, in a survey that asked how much people liked their cars, those with more expensive vehicles tended to rate their cars more highly. Yet, when the same people were asked to rate their driving experiences, there was no significant difference between owners of expensive and cheaper cars. So when folks are thinking about their cars, they like them. But when they focus on their actual driving experience, which includes many things beside the car itself (traffic, weather, road conditions, the company, etc.), the actual car becomes less of a factor.
People are also terribly bad at predicting how happy or sad an experience or purchase will make them. Why? Because when you ask them about such things, all attention is on that one item. So I might say that a new house would make me a hundred times happier because that’s all I’m focusing on at that moment. But in reality, when I’m in the house, it will rapidly become one of a hundred things I have to attend to in any given day, and its significance will fade. Luckily, the same can be true of bad incidents. People might predict that they could never be happy if they became chronically ill or lost a limb, but that’s because they’re underestimating the impact of other parts of their lives if such a thing did happen.
For me, the message is that I need to monitor my attention. If I’m always focusing on the bad things around me, then I’ll miss the good things. If I’m looking at the times that people let me down, I’ll miss the times they were there for me. I’m not saying that we should be Pollyannas. After all, bad things will happen, and we’ll have to deal with them. But let’s not make them worse by attending so intently on the bad that we can’t see the good.
English as Second Language
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey”
by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
It is about a neuroscientist who is very young (in her late 30’s) when she suffers a major stroke, and is a true story. Dr. Taylor has a unique perspective of the stroke and her recovery because she has studied the brain for many years, and she also eloquently describes and embraces the changes in her life after the stroke. I was a neuroscientist for 15 years before beginning to teach at Nashville State, so I related personally to her life pre-stroke and found myself re-evaluating parts of my life and the way I approach the world as I read her descriptions of learning to use the “other” (non-scientist) parts of her brain post-stroke.